5 Nontraditional Publishing Models from Around the World

The world of publishing is changing with ebooks, but writers and readers may not be thinking outside the box enough when it comes to new forms of publishing. Authors and publishers around the world are figuring out intriguing new ways to publish:

1. Let readers read through the slushpile, then micropay for good fiction.

Recently, the press has been abuzz by the "freemium" model of self-publishing that has become popular in China. As Publishing Perspectives reports, hundreds of websites offering free original fiction web serials are attracting 40% of all Chinese internet traffic. Once an individual author's serials gain enough followers, he or she is invited to a separate paid section of the site, where readers pay small amounts of money for the next installments. Successful authors reportedly have made substantial amounts using this model.

Can this work in the West? We'll see when Shanda Literature, the largest freemium publisher, sets up a U.S. subsidiary aimed at American readers and writers. 

HarperCollin's interactive writing platform
Another variation on this theme is Inkpop, an interactive writing platform launched by HarperCollins in 2009, where teen readers read and rate manuscripts. Publishing Perspectives reports that debut author Leigh Fallon got a book deal after her manuscript shot to the top five in three weeks and caught an editor's attention.

2. Skip the part where you write a book; just write the review.

(cover of fake book, "The Art of Road Crossing" from Bimuyu's site)

In this awesome post (via @brainpicker), "China: Writing Imaginary Book Reviews," we learn about Chinese author and essayist Bimuyu, who writes book reviews of imaginary books. Following in the literary footsteps of Jorge Luis Borges and Umberto Eco, Bimuyu constructs imaginary novels and books by creating covers and posting reviews, such as this excerpt from a "review" for "The Art of Road Crossing":

The Art of Road Crossing is actually a book on how to deal with hidden rules in the Chinese society and commercial world for foreigners (laowai) living in China. The book is divided into the following chapters. Chapter 1: You cannot ignore the traffic lights – avoiding mistakes of principles; Chapter 2: When can you ignore the traffic lights – grasping policies and regulations with flexibility; Chapter 3: Looking at the cars is more important than looking at the traffic lights – how to understand and apply ‘hidden rules’; Chapter 4: The police cannot deal with too many rule-breakers – deciding on how bold to act; Chapter 5: That you can run the red lights today does not mean you can do the same tomorrow – understanding the rapid changes in Chinese regulations.

Think of how many interesting ideas you could communicate without the tedium of writing them down in long-form. 

3. Write the way your readers communicate, in text messages or Facebook posts.

Japanese authors were the first to write entire novels on their cell phones using text messages. The popularity of cell phone novels spread to Taiwan, China, South Korea, and even Europe and Africa. Writers have also written novels on Facebook notes or pages.

4. Serialize your story and charge for subscriptions.

If you're a well-known author with a built-in fan base, you can sell your story in serialized form. Stephen King did this both in print (The Green Mile in 1996) and online (the unfinished The Plant in 2000). 

In 2010, science fiction authors Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear and others refined the idea with The Mongoliad, "a community-driven, enhanced serial novel that you read with your Web browser, smart phone, or tablet." The free basic membership lets you read sample chapters and interact with the community, and a paid membership (6 months for $5.99, 12 months for $9.99) gives you access to all chapters, artwork, documentaries, and author interviews.

5. Tweet your story.

Who has time to read a 50,000 word novel? Some people have figured out that a good story can be told in 140 characters. Here are some examples:

  • @DeadEndFiction ("short horror fiction confined (or coffined) to 140 characters with a beginning, middle and dead end"). Sample tale:

  • @nanoism ("A paying twitterzine/lit mag for thoughtful nanofiction"). Sample tale:
by Christopher James

  • @midnightstories ("A daily dose of thoughtful twitter fiction: stories in 140 characters"). Sample tale:

Have you heard of any other nontraditional publishing platforms? Good Twitter fiction? Are any of these financially viable for the average author?

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